Kearney - Don't believe the hype
Rob Kearney believes Ireland's big Test rivals tipping Joe Schmidt's men for World Cup glory is little more than a phoney war.
Kearney has warned supporters not to believe the hype surrounding the double RBS 6 Nations winners despite high-profile observers backing Ireland to lift the World Cup.
Former Australia boss Robbie Deans is the latest rugby personality to tip Ireland for the World Cup, but Leinster full-back Kearney believes some eight countries could yet steal the title.
"For the next few months all of these media interviews are going to be dominated by people saying 'no, you're going to win it, no, you're going to win it'," said Kearney.
"No one wants to win it!
"No one wants to say that at the minute.
"So there has been a huge amount of chat about the Irish team, probably because we are back-to-back winners of the Six Nations.
"Every team wants to win it.
"Of course we talk about winning it, and every team will.
"There are seven or eight teams there that will tell you that on our day if they perform to the best of their ability they can beat any team in the world.
"And without doubt there are seven or eight teams who will tell you that."
Kearney moved to temper the rising mood of expectation that has swelled since Kiwi boss Schmidt has overseen Ireland's consecutive Six Nations title wins.
The 30-year-old insisted Ireland have pushed their luck at times during two highly-fruitful years under Schmidt.
"We have been so lucky to win those two Six Nations, they have happened on points difference and a lot of things went our way on the two final days," said Kearney.
"We could easily have found ourselves in second or third.
"The problem we have is trying to manage expectations a little.
"The Irish think 'back-to-back Six Nations, we are the best in the world now'.
"Sadly, that's not the case.
"We can't really control those expectations: we just have to make sure we have good levels of humility about us.
"There's managing expectations then there's reality checks as well, like our defeat in Wales this year.
"Hopefully we can stay focused by a combination of both."
Ireland captain Paul O'Connell is primed to complete a two-year deal with Toulon in the coming days, to leave Munster after the World Cup.
Leinster stalwart Kearney admitted every Ireland player would back O'Connell for a last hurrah in France.
"I think if anyone deserves it, he does," said Kearney, speaking at a Dove Men event at Twickenham.
"He's given so much to the Irish game, to Munster, if he did want a life change and to take his wife and two kids away and to live a different culture, I don't think there's one person in the whole of Ireland who could begrudge him that.
"And certainly from a player's perspective, I'm sure I speak on all the players' behalf when I say that he thoroughly deserves it.
"And it if was to happen, no one would begrudge him that."
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